Reed All About It - Excerpt #4

Oct. 17, 2011

EXCERPT #4

REED ALL ABOUT IT: DRIVEN TO BE A JAYHAWK, is written by former Jayhawk Academic All-American guard Tyrel Reed. REED ALL ABOUT IT: DRIVEN TO BE A JAYHAWK, from Ascend Books of Overland Park, Kansas, will be available October 21 at most local book stores as well as amazon.com and ascendbooks.com. This title is also available on all popular e-book platforms including ipad, Kindle and Nook.

KUathletics.com will present excerpts from the book between now and October 21. In today’s excerpt, Tyrel talks about winning the 2008 National Championship game.

To this day, whenever I hear the song “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, it reminds me of sitting on the team bus on the way to the Alamodome in San Antonio to play Memphis for the national championship. Although I consider Michael Jackson to be among the greatest entertainers of all time, I’m really more of a Garth Brooks fan. Yet my iPod selected MJ during that bus ride, so in my head the soundtrack to the 2008 national championship game begins with “Beat It” and ends with “One Shining Moment.”

Normally, our gameday shootarounds go for about 45 minutes, and they’re intense. We use it as a chance to get better, not just to put some shots up. If you don’t practice well at the shootaround, you could end up running. We take them seriously. But the shootaround that day was the shortest we ever had. It probably lasted 15 minutes, maybe less. Coach Self just knew that we were going to be ready to play.

Our game plan wasn’t that complicated. We knew there were two important matchups on the perimeter with Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. CDR was having a great season. He was long and athletic and just did a little bit of everything, but we had Brandon Rush, who was the same size, just as athletic and a great defender. We felt like Brandon was a perfect matchup for him. The Rose matchup wasn’t so obvious. All the guards wanted a shot at him. Russ Rob, Mario, and Sherron all wanted a piece of him. There was no backing down. Sherron being from Chicago, where Rose was from, made Sherron really amped up to play that game.

With the exception of the short shootaround, everything that day was exactly like a normal gameday, right up until that moment when we’re putting on the jerseys. Five minutes before the game, you put your jersey on, and then it hits you that it’s time. We waited all year for this exact moment where we come out and play. It’s like, wow, it’s finally here, let’s go. Let’s go take this, boys.

For the most part, the first half went like we wanted it to go. Memphis got a nice early lead on us, but we weren’t worried about that. It had been back and forth, but we led by five at halftime and felt like we had done what we wanted to do. But, of course, you can’t win a game in the first half.

Kansas led by one when Rose hit a three with 8:12 to play, then another jumper at 7:37, then an and-one play at 5:10, then a fall-away shot-clock beating bank shot. Kansas trailed by nine with 2:12 to play.

I didn’t think the game was over, but I thought, “Man, that’s a dagger.” When you see somebody make a shot like that, you get that feeling that it might be their day. I put my head in my hands, looking down at the ground like, “that’s tough.”

Arthur made a jumper with 1:56 left to cut the Memphis lead to seven. Collins made a steal and on his way out of bounds, flung it back inbounds to Robinson, who turned and passed it back to Collins for a three: Memphis by four with 1:46 left. Arthur made another jumper with 1:01 left to make it 62-60, Memphis.

With16 seconds left, KU fouled Rose. He missed the first and made the second, putting Memphis up 63-60 with 10 seconds left.

We ran a play called “Chop.” The point guard brings it down and has the option to pitch it back or take it to the basket. We needed a three at that time so we pitched it back.

Sherron was falling down and I don’t know how he got that pass off. Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, one of our bigs is setting a screen for the other guard. It would have been Brandon Rush. So once he catches the ball from Sherron, Mario can throw a fade screen pass to Brandon for the three in the corner. I think we all knew it wasn’t gonna happen. Mario had hit big shot after big shot countless times throughout his career, so we had the confidence he was going to come off and knock it down.

As soon as the shot went through, we knew it was over. We still had to go to overtime, but we had all the momentum. Memphis was just so deflated.

After the game, Coach came in to the locker room and told us how much he loved us, how much he was so proud of us and how he knew all along we were going to get this done. I can’t even explain how great it had to feel for Russ Rob and the rest of those guys, in your last year of college, to win the national championship.

After the media session, it was back to the team hotel at about 1 a.m. We had an entire floor to ourselves. The national championship trophy was up there and there was a bunch of food for everybody. We basically hadn’t seen our families or friends at all that week, and they all got to come up and celebrate with us. Everybody was in the best mood. It was so rewarding.

It was such a cool moment. I had grown up in Kansas and I lived and died with the Jayhawks. Then we actually won, and I was a part of it. What cooler thing could have happened?

None of us got more than a couple hours of sleep. Everyone was tired on the flight home. There were people dragging on the plane, but it was the best dragging feeling ever.

When we landed at Forbes Field in Topeka that day, we got off the plane, walked into the terminal and saw this mass of people in there cheering. Coach Self stopped and said a few words and we all passed through some ropes, slapping hands with people. They were doing chants and cheering. It was an amazing feeling to know how much people care about Kansas basketball. It really does turn you into something of a celebrity in certain contexts. I never asked for that, and it’s not the reason I started playing basketball, but it’s an awesome feeling to be wanted. There is no greater feeling in life than when a kid asks you for your autograph or a parent wants to come up and say you have affected their child, and you’re a role model.

From Forbes, we rode a bus back to Lawrence, where there was a gathering at the football stadium. It was a dreary day. Just rainy and cold and nasty. We had just come back from sunny San Antonio, so none of us was ready for that. There was a huge outpouring of people. It was so awesome to see a football stadium filled with thousands of people who were there just to greet a basketball team that wasn’t even playing anymore. I don’t know how many places in the country something like that would happen, fans filling a football stadium just to welcome home a basketball team.

Five days later, we had a parade through downtown Lawrence, which I heard had been pretty crazy the night we beat Memphis. That parade was kind of our way to experience that.

Man, the parade did not disappoint. The school estimated there were 80,000 people there. I rode in the back of a convertible with Matt Kleinmann. It was so cool. We were going slowly and people were right there. We could slap hands with them and spot faces in the crowd. It was a lot like our arrival at Forbes, but on a huge scale.

It doesn’t really make us feel important, per se. When you think of it in the context of life, it’s just a huge basketball game we won. But it did affect so many people and made so many people happy, it’s really just an honor to be part of that team and bring so much joy to people’s lives. It’s crazy to think about that. It’s just one win, but it can change your life with the doors and avenues it opens up for you the rest of your life.

Danny Manning knows a little something about that. He was the star of the team that won it in ’88 and he was on the coaching staff at KU in 2008. In those minutes after the game, when we were in the locker room, Coach Manning came over to us freshmen and said, “You guys don’t know how lucky you are, as freshmen, to do this.” It didn’t set in at that moment because you don’t know any different. Now that I look back on it, there might not have been a truer statement than that.